When social media was new, it was the faddish addiction of young people and early adopters. However, the first social networks would appear and disappear as users lost interest. Today, even grandparents are regulars on certain networks. Social media has developed into a full-blown epidemic. The importance is no longer driven because it is new and shiny. Social media is no longer the cool new thing, but is now the town square.
There have been many changes since the first recognized social media site appeared, SixDegrees.com in 1997. The focus has changed from “going viral” to meaningful engagement. It is not enough for businesses to just be there. The content must be meaningful.
However, while many social media sites exist, Facebook remains the undisputed king. Check out the top 10 standings:
- Facebook — 1,100,000,000 users
- Twitter — 310,000,000 users
- LinkedIn — 255,000,000 users
- Pinterest — 250,000,000 users
- Google+ — 120,000,000 users
- Tumblr — 110,000,000 users
- Instagram — 100,000,000 users
- Vkontakte (VK) — 80,000,000 users
- Flickr — 65,000,000 users
- Vine — 42,000,000 users
Who Will Be Left In 5 Years?
Facebook will absolutely continue to thrive, but Twitter and LinkedIn are showing growth and/or revenue troubles. Twitter especially has a problem attracting new users without alienating existing ones. Pinterest has limited appeal. Google+ is a ghost town, and Google has already started uncoupling and deemphasizing the social network. The others have all found a happy equilibrium serving a niche.
Big Data Becomes Bigger
Big data simply refers to the collection of customer information. The more one knows about customers, the more targeted and relevant a network can create an experience, keeping users engaged. Facebook has recently revised their News Feed algorithm to ensure users see the “most engaging” posts first, and Twitter followed with changes to their timeline which has traditionally only showed posts in reverse chronological order.
Social media sites are not only concerned with user experience, they are using their data collection to make advertising platforms more targeted and robust, thus increasing revenue. Imagine walking past a McDonald’s and receiving a tweet about their new burger. Data will become customized and open, creating new opportunities for social marketing.
Mobile and Entertainment
Mobile is trending ahead of desktops as the main method of accessing the internet. It will not stop. Automobiles are slated to become mobile internet devices, Wearable tech, like Google Glass, will make constant connectivity truly constant. Expect major eyewear brands to license the technology soon.
Content, sites and social media platforms who are not ready for this shift will be left behind. On social media, business will need to move away from text focused content, and toward tappable post elements, videos, and other content that increases user experience and interaction.
Social Media Marketing
Good marketers integrate marketing efforts across multiple media. However, social media was often an afterthought or an aside in the early years. Today, social media is an essential element to marketing strategies. Because of the shift away from the desktop, brands will need to focus on mobile interactivity. Social media is no longer just networking. Social is necessary for the overall marketing campaign, not just a separate channel.
This is the way to look at it… Social media is not just a way to sell to your customers. It is a way to connect, create a community, and build loyalty. As the pinnacle of your overall marketing campaign — offline, online, in-store — social marketing is central, not separate to your brand communication. Start relating to customers, and stop selling to them. When you build trust and loyalty, the sales will come. Make sense?
Leveraging Your Network
The internet is becoming a very crowded place, and some would say there is content overload. However, content creation is needed for visibility. Businesses will need to maximize advantages with franchisees, dealers, or employees. Use the power of the crowd! Local marketing will particularly benefit from the advantages of utilizing networks.
What does this mean?
First and foremost, do not wait until you believe you know all the answers. Leave your competitors in the dust by increasing your investment in social media and mobile. You will be a master, with skills and abilities far beyond your competition, as they are just getting started.
Next, capture and utilize analytics. Regularly review data and statistics to know what is and is not working. Maximize your return on investment by making adjustments as the data dictates.
There is a great shift underway with social media. Social marketing is becoming the central focus. Good marketers will learn to get the most from these tools for a competitive advantage.